Will newsies NEVER report on the iPhone confession app correctly?

First, there was a whole string of headlines suggesting that the new iPhone app meant to help people make a good confession was actually a substitute for going to confession.  My review here.

Now that a statement was made by the papal spokesman that the iPhone app isn’t a substitute for confession, some headlines suggest that the Vatican has banned or condemned the app.

I saw the following at CMR:

So many media outlets have mis-reported about the intent of the app that Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, to say it is not a substitute for confession “”One cannot speak in any way of confessing via iPhone”

This, of course, has prompted a whole new wave of flagrant mis-reporting.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

How low do your test scores have to be before they let you into journalism school?

To be clear, the Vatican has not condemned the app.  The app has the imprimatur of a US bishop.  The app is a tool, an aid, to help you examine your conscience and then remember how and what to confess when you go to the priest for confession.

Easy.  Right?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. teomatteo says:

    Can anyone trust the news when something so simple can be so miss reported?

  2. tech_pilgrim says:

    I think this could backfire on the MSM. What this is going to (hopefully) do is make people download the app out of curiosity. If they are a fallen away Catholic, God willing, they might start to think about confession again, and use the app as an aid. They (the MSM) could be doing our work for us, getting people to think about confession again and raising awareness of the app.

    To quote Blazzing Saddles, “why get one of our own men killed, we’ll wire the governor.”

  3. Legisperitus says:

    Just remember, if these people could think clearly about these things, they’d be Catholic.

  4. Honestly, journalists everywhere! This is not hard! It really isn’t! You should hang your head in shame if you are: a) unable to grasp this as you are then definitely in the wrong profession and should realise that you are. People unable to understand a matter so simple as this should not be in the business of informing the public on anything and they or their superiors should realise this. b) unwilling to do the very very very basic research necessary for a person previously totally ignorant on anything to do with Catholicism in order to understand this. If you are unwilling to inform yourself to a basic level, you should not be trying to inform the public about it. c) lacking in the basic pride in your profession needed to try to be even remotely accurate and/or honest. d) maliciously trying to malign the Church, which seems to be the only option available if none of the above apply.

  5. Dr. Eric says:

    A friend of mine posted a link about this on Facebook. Then all his friends enjoyed themselves mocking and blaspheming the Holy Catholic Church. I am starting to think that the more the media ignores The Church the better it would be.

  6. tech_pilgrim says:

    @ Catholicofthule

    e. making headlines and stories that will generate clicks.


  7. Joe in Canada says:

    I wondered, though, after reading Fr Lombardi’s text, if he had read the original articles or just the headlines.

  8. TomB says:

    Imus mentioned it this morning, along with a typically crude remark. Oddly enough, it’s the first time I’ve heard him in about 10 years.

  9. Tech Pilgrim. Very true. I was being unfair. Those two valiant and honourable motives are also contenders! :-)

  10. ppb says:

    NPR ran a story on the confession app last night. At least they more or less understood and correctly reported the purpose of the app. They engaged some random people to try it out, and there were some sneering and incredulous responses; however, they also interviewed the priest and programmer who developed it. On the whole, I think it was good exposure.

  11. John V says:

    “How low do your test scores have to be before they let you into journalism school?”

    That line is an instant classic. Unfortunately, I expect there will be lots of opportunities to use it in the future.

  12. ChipL says:

    tell me about it…. I think the AP did a fair job:

    but what about reuters (which was released 3 hours later than the AP one):

    Where did they come up with the quotes in there? Is there anything I can do to combat the issue?

    ABC news released an article that had quotes from a horrible app and attributed them to our app. I ended up calling the editor and had her correct the text, but by that point several news articles had already picked it up including the huffington report, who won’t change it:

    The sinful suggestions the app offers are inventive and even age appropriate.
    An example given by iPhone is, “I think my cousin is hot, but I’d never go there because it’s socially unacceptable…” OK.

  13. Martial Artist says:

    How low do your test scores have to be before they let you into journalism school?

    It increasingly seems to me that the answer has become “the lower the better“. It is rare that a day goes by that someone on the TV news doesn’t utter a vague, misleading and/or logically incorrect statement. And I doubt that it is simply the reporters, but also the editors. We are becoming a decreasingly literate society, despite the steadily increasing cost of public education. The law of diminishing returns seems to apply.

    I think much of the problem is a consequence of the Anglophone world having adopted the German model of the university, as opposed to the French, an idea suggested to me a few years ago by my reading of the book by historian Arthur Herman How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It. The idea was further reinfoced when I began to examine the curricula at some small Catholic liberal arts schools, which still teach the trivium and the quadrivium, rather than having undergraduates declaring a major to the exclusion of studying more generally applicable subjects. And, from my surname (German for potter) you might correctly surmise that I am neither, as a rule, anti-German, nor a particular fan of the French.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  14. John V says:

    Follow up question:

    Having tested low enough to be admitted to journalism school, how much lower do your scores have to get before they award you journalism degree?

  15. Bryan Boyle says:

    Having worked in broadcast journalism for, oh, 14 years…the answer to your question is that most journalists are such because they couldn’t handle more intensive majors, like fine arts or urban studies…;).

    You’re not talking about the leading intellects (not that THAT is necessarily a high-point…too many pointy-headed ‘intellectuals’ have ruined most things….) in institutes of higher learning; to the contrary…I found that most (not all, some true news people I had the pleasure of working with were able to actually consider all sides of an issue and were genuinely concerned to get their facts straight…) were more interested in being ‘first with the story’ and tended to pander to the least common denominator. And, anti-Catholicism, being the last acceptable prejudice, is an easy sell…both in story line and cheap headlines.

    Hey, even L’Osservatore Romano gets it wrong. For every Edward R. Murrow, there’s 100 Hunter Thompsons.

  16. jeffreyquick says:

    Yes, there’s a press narrative that cannot be violated. And the narrative about the Catholic church is this:
    1. Nothing the Church does is of any real efficacy or power.
    2. Corollary to #1: since there’s no real reason for Catholics to be Catholic (since it doesn’t work), the Church controls them through fear and power (which in this case they possess, notwithstanding #1 )

    As applied: we have a confession app. This will (supposedly) assuage people’s guilt without requiring the Church. The Church says, “Uh. uh, that’s not what it does; you need to come to us”, which of course is just the Church using the fear of Hell to get what it want. Which is money. And “chicken”.

    The third part of The Narrative is a corollary to #2: The Church is one big unified conspiracy, and anything done by a Catholic for Catholics is an act of The Catholic Church (TM). Which is true in a sense, just not in the sense intended. We saw this a bit in part one of this adventure, but a clearer example was last week’s release by the Catholic Truth Society of Elizabeth Dodd’s “Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Dangers.” . Which became, in the headlines, “Catholic Church Issues Guide on How to Convert Witches”, even though the first thing you see on the CTS website is a declaration of their independence. The only person I read who got that fact right was Damien Thompson, which was having too good a time snarking on Wiccans to be truly effective in explaining that.

    We’ll no more get fair treatment from the MSM that the Right does, so there’s nothing to do but fly on in the knowledge that the flak we receive indicates that we’re directly over the target.

  17. Hate to say it, but I blame a lot of the Catholic Blogs for part of this problem. Sure, ultimately the onus is on the MSM, but they are a lazy folk. They scan blogs and comments for nuggets of information, rather than doing fact collecting like in days of olde.

    So when you have a bunch of Catholics criticizing the app for this and that shortcoming, what you get is a negative reports from the MSM’s lowest and weakest points. Then when the Vatican Press “Machine” responds, the rest of the media outlets spend a week feeding on that bloody mess. I wrote a post about this on my blog, because in these situations we as Catholics really are, “Our own worst enemy.”

  18. Animadversor says:

    1) The native intellectual capacity of at least a few journalists is barely average.
    2) Most journalists (like most people nowadays) have not been trained to think methodically, much less rigorously.
    3) Even when they are able to think carefully, many are too intellectually lazy to bother.
    4) The better journalists are assigned to fields editors consider important, not “niche” fields like religion. (Unless sex abuse is involved, and even then….)
    5) Even if they do know better, some journalists prefer to misreport the story either because of some animus aganst or preconception about the Church (or religion generally) or because, misreported, the story is “funnier” or more sensational.
    6) In some cases, the story itself is accurate, but the headline is a disaster. This seems especially the case in England. It seems that there are no more quality broadsheets there. They have all descended to the level of tabloids, even The Telegraph and The Times.

  19. jmromanski says:

    NPR’s “All Things Considered” put out what I consider a relatively ‘balanced’ story on the app, slightly to my surprise: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/09/133629830/iPhone-App-Helps-Catholics-Confess

  20. Randii says:

    Totally mis-handled by the MSM and Ctholic blogs and the Vatican’s spokesperson.

    I’ve posted a typical comment on a prominent conservative MB. Now granted most politically conservative sites have an underlying anti-Catholic bent – when religious issues come up. It’s hidden and not as blatant as the anti-Muslim bias on much of the right, but it’s there.

    This is what one self described “Christian” posted on the site – it all comes down to another major PR hit for the church and is giving fundamentalists and so-inclined evangelicals ammunition for their attacks on Catholic “inventions” such as confessing to a priest:

    “It used to be that Catholics went to a priest to confess their sins. This was their link to God. But now they can, for a few bucks, talk to God directly with The Catholic “Confession” App. Like confessing to a priest, the app responds to you. With prayer it’s kind of a one-way conversation. With Confession you have to take time off work to go to the church. If you sin regularly this can take a lot of valuable time out of your week. With this app, you can be absolved immediately so you can get back to sinning without delay. And you won’t have to compile a list of sins as you can get each one absolved immediately. No standing in line behind all those other sinners.

    Of course there is the down side. If you confess to murder or rape, or some other heinous crime, and law enforcement gets hold of your app, you may be finished, unlike the priest who swears to keep your sins a secret.

    I see that the Vatican isn’t 100% behind this. After all, attendance is down and this would only give the “Faithful” less reason to drop by the church and donate some guilt money. If you can talk directly to God, who needs the church?”

  21. chloesmom says:

    Our local TV anchors (with a collective IQ in the minus digits) had quite the giggle-fest about this on the 6 o’clock news last night. Pretty sad – they thought they were being oh so witty -NOT! Just being their usual tiresome selves. Lord have mercy.

  22. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Pretty sad – they thought they were being oh so witty\\

    They were HALF right, weren’t they?

    I’ve noticed that if there’s any way to mess up the truth about ANYBODY’S Church, the secular media will find it.

    A mission sent its Holy Week schedule to the local newspaper–not exactly all in monosyllables, but very nearly. The paper still messed it up.

    An old priest used to say that if the religion editor does his job faithfully and flawlessly for at least 20 years, he’s promoted to copy boy in classifieds.

  23. Kerry says:

    “Awww…reporting of the facts is HARD. Can’t we just report what we believe is going on?”

  24. Kerry says:

    Brian Boyle, (and others), is it true that in J-skool, the emphasis is no longer ‘find the facts’, but find opposing viewpoints to the ‘narrative’, the underlying (-lying, heh) assumption being objective truth is illusory, only points of view matter? (We hear this regularly in the newsphrases, “Not everyone agrees”, “Some say…”, “But so and so disagrees”.) It is pernicious. Even in weather reporting, “Some areas could get as much as…” inches of snow, rain, drought or fish falling from the sky.

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